Frances Clymer is retiring April 30 after 15 years as Director of the Park County Library System.
Before she came to the library system, Frances was a librarian for the McCracken Research Library at the Buffalo Bill Center of the West (formerly the Buffalo Bill Historical Center). She came to the Center part-time in 1983. In 1993, she moved from working as a curatorial assistant into the Center’s McCracken Research Library, where she served as its Librarian from 1997-2005.
Frances has a master’s degree in medieval studies from the University of Poitiers in France and also did graduate work on a double major in French and art history at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Still, she said, “From the time I was in college, I always seemed to gravitate toward libraries.”
She was a bibliographic researcher in the Watson Library when she attended the University of Kansas, which gave her the freedom to explore what were then closed stacks. After she married and moved to Arizona, she became a clerk for the Arizona State University Hayden Library and worked for the university’s art history department, organizing the images in their slide library.
“I was always organizing information and interacting with interesting people and learning new things,” she said of these experiences. “It was just wonderful.”
After she joined the McCracken Library, she decided to pursue an MLIS from Emporia State University through their distance program. Much of the work was done online — to the scream of a 9600 KB modem back in those days. Peter Hassrick, director of the BBHC at the time, gave her professional leave to attend her in-person Emporia classes in Denver.
One of her proudest accomplishments as director was when the library moved in October 2008 from an antiquated building into its current location at 1500 Heart Mountain Street. The new library occupies the entire lower level of what used to be an oil company building that Park County purchased during a downturn. The County put forward money and obtained a matching grant from the State Loan and Investment Board. The Library Foundation raised more than $100,000 to contribute, which was the largest single private donation the county ever received.
As significant as that was, it doesn’t top her list. “What I’m most proud of is the staff,” she said. We have wonderful, competent people who are welcoming and informed in all three of our libraries — Cody, Powell, and Meeteetse. What I’m most pleased with is how wonderfully supportive and welcoming we are, and how essential we’ve become to our communities.”
The library’s support of its community has been evident during the current pandemic crisis. “Even right now, when we’re closed to public traffic, all three libraries are providing circulation through curbside pickup. That was the staff’s idea — they stepped up and they did it.” In fact, Cody Library Manager Nicholle Gerharter ran the statistics and discovered that from March 16-31 they circulated or renewed more than 9,000 items, even though they were closed.
The public health crisis is complicating the search for a new director, but Frances said, “My hope is that the board will find a candidate for a new director who has newer skills and different areas of knowledge to drive the library system forward in the next decade. Someone who is a good fit for the community. When you’re moving into a small town whether from across the state or another state, you need to have the skill set to be able to integrate yourself into a community gracefully.”
Her retirement plans include family, of course. She has a four-year-old grandson in Laramie and another grandchild on the way, so once restrictions are lifted, she’ll be able to spend more time with children and grandchildren.
She’ll also keep a hand in libraries with some planned research projects. Years ago she began gathering information on those who contributed to the Powell Library Club Cookbook in 1909 to raise money for a library in that community. It took some time — it was the 1920s before Powell got a physical library — “But they were undaunted, and they kept raising money.” She also wants to do histories of all the Park County libraries.